Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Lawyer Lessons

For the first Monday in over two months, I was able to sleep in past 7:30am and not have to drive to work. I am glad I finally get a little break--even if I still have to take an ethics test on Friday and do a bunch of other things before class starts.

Before thinking about all that though, I have reflected back on what I have learned at my job, which overall was a very positive experience. Without going into specifics (client confidentiality), here were some lessons I learned about lawyering in the "real world":

Confusion: The difference between a lawyer and a law student working at a summer job is that a lawyer accepts confusion and the fact that they do not know something, and works through it. Conversely law students worry about not learning something from school and question whether they picked the right field. I remember how confused I was on my first day of work when I got a really tough assignment; it turns out I knew just as much about the subject as the assigning lawyer did but I intially was overwhelmed by the confusion (I would lie if quitting after the first day did not pass through my head). Lawyers work through it . . . or assign it to the summer law clerk or new associate.

Support Staff: Legal assistants/paralegals/secretaries are amazing people who have a tremendous amount of patience. They keep lawyer organized, perform a great deal of research themselves, deal with difficult clients, and help new or soon-to-be lawyers like me. Another interesting observation was that assistants' personality eerily matched the lawyers they worked with. I could have easily put the pairs together in my office.

The Work: Legal work is really interesting and can be very fulfilling. Sometimes it is just as "sexy" and cool as it seems on television; other times people think what you do is really boring but you still think it's cool. Fighting for a client is especially rewarding.

Opposing Counsel: Sometimes you are up against lawyers who are morons like the ones I was up against last week. It can be very frustrating when you put in so much work into a case and the other side has not or is not acting rationally. Conversely, there are also some really good lawyers that you can be up against, but you are both working in the best interest of all. Fortunately, it seems like in Santa Barbara, you encounter more of the later because it is hard to want to screw over fellow lawyers in a tight-nit community.

Billing: Keeping track of your work to the tenth of an hour is not fun but you get used to it pretty quickly. See previous post for more.

Morale: Even though I did not get wined and dined like summer associates at big firms, the office does do things for its lawyers and that makes a big difference. The little things made me happy and more productive; whether it was having an infinite supply of green tea in the kitchen area, a receptionist always there to cheerfully greet me, Monday morning fruit or breakfast burrito Friday, or having a family friendly office where lawyers could bring in their babies for everyone to ogle.

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